Uncertainty at the "U"
The Future of the University of Miami’s football program faces uncertainty after the riveting article by Yahoo! Sports this week (http://sports.yahoo.com/investigations/news?slug=cr-renegade_miami_booster_details_illicit_benefits_081611), which detailed the numerous improprieties booster Nevin Shapiro engaged in with the school’s football players over an 8-year time period. While the history of amateur athletics has been filled with improper benefits and shady dealings, if the details contained in this story are true it is without a doubt the most brazen run of NCCA rule breaking that I can recall. Shapiro claims to have provided players with everything from cash payments, jewelry, access to his yacht and multimillion dollar homes, prostitutes, and paid excursions to night clubs. It is often stated that these kinds of benefits are afforded to players at a majority of the big-time college programs. But to this extent? It’s possible, though the amounts and degree of benefits allegedly provided in this case seem staggering.
The injustice of this situation is that not only did players like Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, and Vince Wilfork reap the benefits of their association with Shapiro while playing for the “U”, but they are also completely immune from any penalties that the school will endure from their association. Most of the 72 athletes named in the probe have moved on and will never have to repay a dime. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the blame lies with Shapiro and the University officials and coaches who looked the other way, but even the most naïve college student should know that there is something wrong about receiving $50,000 in cash. The University of Miami athletes listed and the Reggie Bush’s of the world get onto move to the next phases of their lives while the schools and players left behind have to deal with the ramifications of their actions. The penalties imposed on USC as a result of Bush’s actions will most likely be miniscule in comparison to what eventually happens to the Miami program.
Jay Bilas has often said that he believes that paying college athletes is something the NCAA should consider to curb the temptation of amateurs to accept inappropriate benefits. This seems like it would be difficult for this type of solution to be implemented, as although college football brings in a majority of the money to school’s athletic programs, athletes competing in other sports would have to be compensated as well. Also, the lure of accepting additional money would still be there when individuals like Shapiro are throwing thousands of dollars around.
I’m not sure what the answer is, as shifty characters with money and reach have always been a part of college sports. What must be addressed is the up close access and perks certain boosters receive. The accessibility that Shapiro had to the Miami football players was amazing, as once he got his foot in the door he was able to make in roads and connections that lasted for years. As the uproar over these allegations builds steam over the coming weeks, we will undoubtedly hear the same suggestions for improving the current NCCA system that have been repeated whenever a scandal like this occurs. Hopefully individuals smarter than myself can find a solution that is fair and punishes those who committed the infractions, not those left behind in the wake.
Having followed the ups and downs of the “U” for years, and with the “death penalty” being thrown around as a possible punishment, I honestly hope this isn’t the end of the program. Say what you will, but every sport is more interesting when there is a villain to root against. In college football I can’t recall a team better suited to the villain role than when Miami is in the national championship mix.
One thing is for certain, we can only hope that Billy Corgen (of “Cocaine Cowboys” and the “U” fame) puts together a “30 for 30” film on the Nevin Shapiro/Miami years in the near future.